Monday, July 22, 2013

Our D.C. Weekend

We decided to tour Mount Vernon, George Washington's home, on Saturday.  The weather was very hot and humid, but the estate was so beautiful. 

The boys especially loved the "ha ha wall."  A low wall was built to keep the animals away from the main house, but to not obstruct the view.  It was called this because visitors, not seeing the low wall, might stumble and fall over the wall, causing those in the know to laugh.  There was lots to see and learn on the grounds and in the nearby museum. 

We met "Martha Washington" who was delightful as she told stories about her life, then interacted with the kids and let us take pictures.  Mr. Two and Mr. Four were not interested in that photo op. 

The kids got an adventure map with puzzles to solve as they toured the estate.  When they finished, they took it to the museum, where they had their puzzles checked and were then given a Mount Vernon penny souvenir.

Oh, and just in case you wondered if I still unconsciously match my kids on occasion, I even do it on vacation.  Can you spot Mr. Four?

After Mount Vernon, we had a pizza dinner, then headed to Gravelly Point Park in Arlington, Virginia.  It is close by the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, next to the Potomac River.  It is a small park, but near the runway, so the planes seem like they are coming in way too close to you as you watch them fly in.  There is also a great view of the city and you can watch the sailboats on the river.  The boys loved watching the planes come in the first few times, but the noise was a little too loud to stay very long.  They had fun running around in the open space. 

We couldn't resist trying to take a funny picture with the planes.  We had to beg the boys to do it, as they didn't like the noise and the perceived closeness of the planes to their heads...

On Sunday, we went to church in the morning and drove to the Washington D.C. temple.  We wandered the beautiful grounds and admired the temple, then headed into the visitor's center for a little while.  We were fortunate to be there when they had a temporary exhibit of paintings by an artist named Rose Datoc Dall, called "Jesus Once was a Little Child."  It was a series depicting the Savior's early years and they were so very touching to view.  You can see a video of the exhibition documentary here.  I especially loved her painting called "Under the Canopy of Heaven" with Mary sheltering the baby Jesus and olive branches framing the two.  Her work is breathtaking.  It made me want to paint.

After a yummy kalamata lemon chicken with orzo dinner with homemade strawberry shortcake (yum!), we drove to Elizabeth City, North Carolina and stayed at a hotel overnight.  You would have thought the hotel was the fun part of the trip for the boys.  They were just giddy about staying in a room with a tv, water cups and big beds.  I think everyone rested fairly well, which was good because Monday was a day full of adventure.  No time for napping!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Day Two in Washington D.C.: The National Mall and National Air and Space Museum

Our second day in D.C. was hot and humid.  The perfect combination for lots and lots of walking, right?  Well, the kids didn't agree either.

We got off the Metro at the stop nearest the White House, so we could see the President's home.  It really is a beautiful building.  It would have been even better if there wasn't a group of protestors shouting at the White House as we gazed through the gates.  Even though that was a little unsettling for the kids, it was a good chance to talk about our freedom of speech.

After our look at the White House, we headed to the National Mall.  There we sat next to the WWII monument, under a shady tree, for a picnic lunch.  The boys were terrified/fascinated with the squirrels that seemed to follow anyone with food around.

After our lunch, we toured the war monuments, impressing upon the boys to show respect and reverence to the men and women who fought and died by being quiet and walking carefully.  They really took that to heart.

We walked up to the Lincoln Memorial and read some of his famous words on the walls.  It was neat that Mr. One has studied American history in school, so he was familiar with many of the people and events memorialized around us.  It was inspiring to walk into the Lincoln memorial, alongside so many different people, different colors, sizes and ages.  To know that he and many others gave their lives for all of us to be free.  Seeing pictures of the statue of Lincoln do not do it justice.  It is massive, and you feel a sense of reverence in that place.

After visiting the monuments, we walked and walked and walked back to the National Air and Space Museum.  I knew this would be a big hit for all of my boys.  I was right.  They loved looking at the planes, space artifacts, jets, etc.  I think it was more fun because, for all the boys but Mr. One, they had just taken their first airplane ride only two days prior.  We decided to let them all pick out an airplane toy as a keepsake of our trip.  They were thrilled to pick out their own plane.  We had to get some astronaut ice cream to share as well.

After a macaroni and cheese dinner (it wouldn't be a vacation with Aunt Carla without at least one type of mac and cheese), we drove over to the Jefferson Memorial and walked up the path leading to it.  It was neat to see the Mall at night, lit up and so calm.  I am glad we decided to go back, even though the kids were exhausted and ready for bed.  It was a great sit-and-soak-in-the-atmosphere spot, looking out at the city, the calm Tidal Basin, the cool marble under your feet.  If we didn't have little kids, we would have lingered there for a lot longer.

Finally back home, it was time to crawl into bed and rest up for another fun and busy day.  Thankfully, with less walking.

A Capital Fourth

Mike's sister, Carla is living in Washington D.C. currently and she invited us to stay.  We were so excited for the opportunity to explore the capitol.  Even better, to be in Washington D.C. on Independence Day was a once in a lifetime experience!  We really wanted to take advantage of teaching our children about our nation's history and to think about all those brave men and women who sacrificed for the United States of America.

We began our day by dressing up in our red, white and blue best.  I couldn't resist!

The boys were so excited to ride the Metro.  Just look at those faces!

Then, we headed off to the National Museum of American History.  There were scores of people lining the streets to watch the parade, but we decided the kids would quickly lose interest in it, so we went to the museum first.  I am so glad we did, because it was relatively uncrowded at that time.  We went right in to see the original Star Spangled Banner.  It was surprisingly emotional to read about it's history and to see it in person.  I may have teared up a bit.  Luckily it was dark ;).  We walked through the exhibit "The Price of Freedom:  Americans at War", filled with artifacts and information about the wars our country has been involved in.  We had a sneak peek into the Presidents' and First Ladies' White House lives.  On a lighter note, we also saw all kinds of transportation, Julia Child's kitchen (my request), and a fascinating house, deconstructed to show how it changed over four generations of owners.  You really could spend days and days in just one Smithsonian museum!  As we were leaving, the parade must have ended not too long before and there were so many people, waiting in line just to get into the museum.  It was nice we beat the big rush of people.

We attempted to tour the war monuments on the Mall, but they were blocked off for the fireworks.  It was a very hot and humid day, and the kids were so tired of walking.  So we sat in the grass and looked up at the beautiful sky before trekking back to the Metro and Carla's house.

We watched the fireworks near the Iwo Jima Memorial, near Arlington Cemetery.  It was a beautiful night, and we had a great view of them with a much smaller crowd than was down on the Mall itself.  Even better, we had our own light show before the official one began, via some fireflies lingering under the tree we sat next to and a bevvy of glow sticks.  One more layer of fun for the main event, pre-show fireworks for our mouths, in the form of Pop Rocks.  The back story:  Mr. Two commented a few days before our trip, "I call Pop Rocks edible fireworks!"  I shared that on Facebook, and so Carla made sure we had lots of Pop Rocks for the 4th.  Mr. Two (and all his brothers) were delighted.  The fireworks were so awesome.  There were audible gasps when they started, and especially when some of them lit up "U S A" in the air.  We walked home with hoards of patriotic onlookers chanting, "USA!"  What an experience!


At Carla's house, we ate a late hot dog dinner (we had a late lunch earlier) and then lit some sparklers outside.  The kids really loved that, especially Mr. One and Mr. Three.  Mr. Two didn't want anything to do with them until he saw how much fun everyone else was having, including Mr. Four, then joined in.

After a big day of walking, learning, fire, red, white and blue, our four little boys didn't even argue about going to bed.  It was a not-to-be-forgotten day.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Mr. Four's First Flight: Toddler Travel Tips

Our family just returned from our adventures in Washington D.C.  It was a crazy, busy, fantastic week.  I don't think I can do just one post and get it all in, so my intent is to break it up into several parts.  I'll give you the highlights, along with some travel tips for those who, like me, think of long flights with little kids and get a bit apprehensive.

I have been prepping for this trip for months, picking up things here and there, pinning ideas and tips, researching places of interest, sewing, crafting, worrying...

The one that I was most concerned about was little Mr. Four, who is 15 months old.  We flew with Mr. One when he was about 4 months old, and it was just horrible.  He had plugged ears and cried and cried, on the plane and the whole weekend we were away.  I did not want to relive any of that headache this time around, nor have a miserable little guy on our hands for vacation.  After a lot of research, reading and asking friends for advice and this is what I came up with for Mr. Four.

*I read several comments from seasoned travelers that a backpack made the best diaper bag, hands free, easy to pack and get into.  This was a great tip.

*Lots of snacks and a few bottles to fill once inside the airport.  I chose things that would take time to eat, but weren't too messy, no sticky or gooey items (well the suckers were sticky, but a good last resort with a fussy toddler).  The Teensy Fruits (Plum Organics) and yogurt and fruit and veggie bites were an especially big hit.  The bottles were good for when the plane was ascending and descending to relieve the ear pressure.  Pack more than you think you need, variety helps with the frustration of sitting in one place for so long.

*I also read that books were a waste of space, since toddlers typically only look at them briefly and quickly become bored, but I did pack two.  They were small and light, the ABC book had lots to point to and talk about, and the Chicky book had very singsong, rhythmic language that I thought might be soothing to a tired baby.

*The homemade fill and spill toy was a favorite on the flight.  I chose items that wouldn't make too much noise and were large enough to gather up easily and light enough to reduce any problems should he throw any of them.  The fabric pieces are just rectangles of cut fleece (about 3" by 8") that I shoved into the Parmesan cheese container.  He loved pulling them out and stuffing them back in.  The circles are just the mini play dough container lids and spice jar lids that fit in the large opening of the container.  The pipe cleaners are folded in half with the ends twisted together to eliminate sharp edges, and can be poked through the smaller holes in the container.

*Finger puppets, which the older kids liked to play with to help keep the baby happy

*A shakey egg (just a plastic egg with rice, taped closed with electrical tape) was light and made very minimal noise to people sitting close by

*The Color Wonder markers and sketch pad were originally for the older boys, but Mr. Four loved coloring with them, and I didn't have to worry about him making a mess, since they only work on the special paper.

*My diaper clutch, with three diapers, a plastic produce bag for dirty diapers and LOTS of wet wipes

*Another necessity was a large blanket.  It was nice to have something that smelled like home to cover him up when he got tired, cold, or just grumpy.  Added bonus?  It was a great to play peek-a-boo with.

*A change of clothes, just in case

*A no spill cup to put snacks, like goldfish crackers, in to help reduce mess

Armed with my diaper bag, I felt much better about flying with a little one.  It also helped that so many people on the plane were kind and would smile, wave and talk to him to keep him interested and happy.

He cried and fussed and threw a few items, but overall, we were able to keep him content.  He even napped a bit on each flight.  A huge victory in my book.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Now I Know I'm Not on Vacation Anymore

We just flew back into town last night from an amazing week in Washington D.C.  (I will post more about our adventures soon.)  In case I didn't know that our vacation was officially over, I have several evidences. 

One, the van wouldn't start last night.  Luckily, my sister was able to pick us up at the airport in a work truck so we could get home.  Mike and my dad spent a chunk of the evening problem shooting and putting in a new battery.  We need new tires and probably some additional work.

Two, we walked in the door to a horrible smell.  Let's just say that there was some bathroom cleaning to be done in a jiffy, that included a lot of Febreeze, and we'll leave it at that...

Three, Mr. Two woke up with a headache and has been throwing up this morning.  More cleaning.

Four, there are piles and piles of laundry and bags to unpack.

Five, as I was going through emails and web surfing at breakfast, I turned to see this:

Oh yes, Mr. Four is on the table and that is Mr. Three's soggy breakfast he is flinging all over the crowded surface.

It was a dream vacation, and I am so grateful we were able to go.  Even more, I am glad that all of the sickness and car troubles waited until we got home to manifest themselves!  Now it's off to clean and all that jazz...